Twitter As A Foreign Entity Cannot Claim Fundamental Rights, Government Says

The platform does not have legal remedy against the government's decision to block certain Twitter accounts.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>(Source: Unsplash) </p></div>
(Source: Unsplash)

Twitter Inc., as a foreign entity, cannot claim fundamental rights in India, Additional Solicitor General R Sanakaranarayanan said while arguing for the central government in the account blocking case.

The platform does not have any legal remedy against the government's decision to block certain Twitter accounts and so, cannot fall back on Article 19(a), which guarantees freedom of speech to citizens under the Constitution, the counsel said.

The platform had approached the Karnataka High Court in July last year, seeking redress against the government's decision to block 39 Twitter accounts. According to it, the government's decision to block accounts without providing sufficient reason violates the account holders' freedom of speech. It further alleged a violation of the Information Technology Act, which allows blocking of accounts only under certain circumstances.

Under the Act, accounts can be blocked in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the defense of the country, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order or preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offense.

However, according to Sanakaranarayanan, Twitter—as a foreign entity—has no right to defend the rights of its account holders. It has repeatedly relied on blocking rules under the IT Act to maintain the confidentiality of its account holders and rejected multiple requests made by the government to disclose the names of its users, Sanakaranarayanan argued.

Twitter has fallen short in its responsibility as a significant social media intermediary, he said. A significant social media intermediary, according to the IT Rules, is bound by law to disclose the details of the account holders, which it failed to do. As there is no mechanism to know the identity of account holders without the cooperation of Twitter, the argument that there was insufficient notice does not hold, Sanakaranarayanan said.

Counsel representing the government has concluded his arguments. The matter will be heard next on April 10.

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